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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2018

THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS BELIEVED NOT FOR JOY

THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS BELIEVED NOT FOR JOY

 (A biblical refection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR B] – 15 April 2018)

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:35-48 

First Reading: Acts 3:13-15,17-19; Psalms: Psalm 4:2,4,7,9; Second Reading: 1 John 2:1-5 

The Scripture Text

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

As they were saying this, Jesus Himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why to questionings rise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate before them.

Then He said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:35-48 RSV) 

When Jesus appeared before the disciples after His resurrection, they were terrified; they thought that they had seen a ghost. The death of Jesus of the cross had been too painful and devastating for them. Their investment of time and their destiny in Jesus came crumbling down of Good Friday when Jesus, their Master had been caught and crucified on the cross. They wept more for themselves than for Jesus. A drama in their lives had come to an end. It is when they had reconciled themselves to this tragic fate that a new vision, a new life appeared in the resurrected Jesus. When He appeared before them, they were afraid and dumbfounded. When they recognized Him, their fright gave way to joy, and paradoxically, their joy swallowed up their belief. Now, they believed not for joy.

The works of the Lord are, sometimes, too marvelous for us to believe. The fact that God loves us so much and that He sent His Son to die upon the cross for the forgiveness of our sins is too marvelous for us to believe. How could, God, who is Almighty and Holy, take the human form and die for us on the cross as a malefactor? The holy God died for poor wretched sinners, like me? This is too much to be believed. But it is true that Jesus loves us – poor sinners, and He died and rose from the dead for us. Anyone who believes in Him, and accepts Him as her or his Savior, even though she or he dies, yet shall she or he live (see John 11:25).

The disciples could not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. He challenged them to touch Him, to look at His hands and feet, and asked them to give Him something to eat, which He consumed in front of them. He showed them several evidences to prove that He had indeed risen from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is real; it is not a fancy; it is not a story concocted by the disciples. The disciples saw Jesus risen from the dead, and later, they authenticated it with their own blood. No man dies for what he knows to be wrong. Jesus is, indeed, risen from the dead. Saint Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1Corinthians 15:14).

When the disciples believed not for joy, Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). When we have doubts about the fact that God loves us, all we need to go to the Bible to know more about Jesus. Saint Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scripture is the ignorance of Christ”. We must make it our constant endeavor to read the Bible more frequently.

Jesus explained the incredulous disciples about the necessity of His sufferings predicted in the Scriptures. Jesus is the Missing Link in the Old Testament. He explains and makes sense of it. Put Jesus into the Old Testament, all the puzzles get solved, and the mysteries open up. Without Him, the Old Testament is bereft of fulfilment.

As Christians, we believe that the Bible, comprising of the Old and the New Testament, is God’s revelation. We love the Old Testament because in it God shows how He was working all through history to bring His Son into the world to be the Savior, and we love the New Testament because through it God reveals the salvation which He wrought through Jesus Christ. We must read our Bible more often to see the wonders, which God had done for us in the past, and to believe in the wonders which He is going to work for us in the future.

Let us be happy and joyful that Christ, by His death and resurrection, had worked out our salvation. When the disciples talked to one another, Jesus appeared in their midst, and began to talk to them. We, often, gather together and talk one against the other, and therefore, Jesus never appears in our midst. Let us cease talking against one another, and begin, like the disciples, to talk of all the things that happened in Jerusalem, and surely, Jesus who made His divine presence among them, will also make His divine presence among us.

Prayer: May the love of the Lord Jesus draw us to Himself; may the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen us in His service; may the joy of the Lord Jesus fill our souls; may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen. (William Temple)

Source: John Rose, JOHN’S ILLUSTRATED SUNDAY HOMILIES – CYCLE B, Bangalore, India: Asian Trading Corporation, sixth printing 2011, pages 73-76.

Jakarta, 13 April 2018  

A Christian Pilgrim 

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TWO APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN LORD TO THE DISCIPLES

TWO APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN LORD TO THE DISCIPLES

(A biblical refection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR B] – 8 April 2018)

[SUNDAY OF DIVINE MERCY]

Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31 

First Reading: Acts 4:32-35; Psalms: Psalm 118:2-4,16-18,22-24; Second Reading: 1John 5:1-6 

The Scripture Text

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained.”

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But He said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:19-31 RSV)

We saw this Gospel last year [Year A] and will see it again next year [Year C]. It speaks of two appearances of the risen Lord: The one on Easter (without Thomas), similar to the one in 1 Corinthians 15:5 and in the other Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John 21. Proper to John, however, is that Jesus gives the power to forgive sins to His apostles. One could call it the Johannine Pentecost: The Holy Spirit comes already on Easter. And the sacrament of reconciliation is Christ’s Easter gift.

In the story of creation, the book of Genesis tells us that God formed man out of the clay of the ground and then gave the man life by blowing breath (His Spirit) into the man’s nostrils. Since breath is a sign of life, this action means God was sharing His divine life with the man.

Some biblical scholars suggest John the evangelist has the story of creation in the back of his mind when he tells us Jesus breathed His Spirit on the apostles. Just as God’s breath gave life to the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden, in today’s Gospel the risen Jesus is giving new and eternal life to all who believe in Him. Just as God shared life with the people He created, Jesus shared His resurrected life with the apostles.

Jesus tells the apostles they can forgive or refuse to forgive sins in His name. Although Christians continue to debate the meaning of this passage, its interpretation may hinge on a proper understanding of the nature of the Jewish law. Some biblical scholars suggest that, in the passage in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives the early Christian community the authority to forgive even sins that some Jews traditionally considered unforgivable. This, therefore, would have been a source of hope and comfort for the early Christians

The second apparition of the risen Lord (proper to John) takes place one week later. Thomas, absent on Easter had said: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Jesus takes up his challenge: “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). And Thomas in spite of the initial doubts of faith breaks out into the profession of faith which has become a model for all times: “Mu Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

The apostles had seen and believed in the risen Lord. We, the generations after them, must believe without seeing the risen Lord, relying on the testimony of the eyewitness of the apparitions. Thomas is indeed the Model of Faith.

Prayer: Jesus, glorious risen Lord, I open my heart to You. Flood every corner of darkness and doubt in me with the light of Your truth. Blessed and holy are You. Amen. 

Jakarta, 6 April 2018 [EASTER OCTAVE: FRIDAY] 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

(A biblical reflection on EASTER SUNDAY, 1 April 2018)

Gospel Reading: John 20:1-9 

First Reading: Acts 10:34,37-43; Psalms: Psalm 118:1-2,16-17,22-23; Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4 

The Scripture Text

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached to the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which has been on His head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that He must rise from the dead. (John 20:1-9 RSV)

Today we are commemorating a unique event, unparalleled in history. Nothing like this has ever been heard before Christ or after Christ. Lazarus was raised by Christ from the dead (John 11:43-44), but he surely died again. Jesus Christ rose from the dead to die no more. He has risen from the world of the dead, with unearthly splendour and glory. Today we celebrate the triumph of life over death, hope over despair, light over darkness, goodness over evil.

As Christians, we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death, and now He reigns in glory. He has redeemed us by paying His own blood as the price. He became obedient unto death; therefore the heavenly Father raised Him from the dead and gave Him a name above every other name. He who humbled Himself has been exalted above everyone else (Philippians 2:6-11). He is the grain of wheat that fell to the ground in order to give existence to thousands and thousands of grains (John 12:24).

All four Gospels begin their “resurrection stories” not with an account of Jesus’ actual rising from the dead but with the discovery of the empty tomb (See Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-9). Although the stories differ in detail, they all agree on the most important point – the same Jesus whom the Roman crucified is now alive!

In today’s Gospel reading we find Mary Magdalene visiting the tomb by herself. Seeing the stone has been rolled away, Mary fears that someone stole Jesus’ body, so she runs to tell the apostles. Both Peter and the beloved disciple visit the tomb and find it empty. After the two apostles leave, two angels speak to Mary, and Jesus appears to her (see John 20:11-18).

Notice that Mary Magdalene’s role in all four Gospel stories is unusual because she appears as the hero in an event that took place in a male dominated society. It is interesting not only that the resurrected Jesus chose to appear first to a women instead of to Peter or another apostle, but also that He chose a woman instead of a man from His inner circle to be the first to tell the others. Jesus must have had a great deal of confidence in Mary Magdalene, and proving that this confidence was not misplaced, she did not disappoint Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, what words of praise can I offer You? Death has been swallowed up in Your victory. Also, throughout Scripture, You have chosen the most unlikely individuals for Your divine purposes: Mary Magdalene in the case of Your resurrection.  Your divine life is now alive within me. Lord Jesus Christ, I will love and praise You forever. Amen.

 

Jakarta, 31 March 2018 [HOLY SATURDAY]   

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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WE SHARE BOTH IN JESUS’ DEATH AND IN HIS RESURRECTION

WE SHARE BOTH IN JESUS’ DEATH AND IN HIS RESURRECTION

(A biblical reflection on HOLY SATURDAY/EASTER VIGIL – 31 March 2018)

One of the various readings at the Easter Vigil: Romans 6:3-11 

The Scripture Text

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. The death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3-11 RSV) 

Death and life – What a stark contrast we have on the Holy Saturday! We pass through a day in the liturgy where all is silence. As the day begins, many of our churches will be bare – the tabernacle empty as we share liturgically in Jesus’ death and burial. Yet as the Easter Vigil begins this evening, we will be introduced once again into the fullness of life through His resurrection to glory. Tonight, our churches will be resplendent with new life and beauty. The contrast in the course of a single day is great indeed.

In a passage that will be read tonight at the Easter Vigil, Saint Paul teaches us that we share both in Jesus’ death and in His resurrection. Our own baptism is itself a paradox of life and death. Through baptism into Jesus’ death on the cross, we die to sin. And, through the same baptism into His resurrection, we too are raised to a new life in His Spirit. What a glorious contrast our life is meant to be! As we die every day to self and sin, we receive new life through the power of Jesus’ resurrection. The life of the risen Lord is in us because we have been baptized into Him. His power is within us to change us. By His Spirit, we can begin to live a new life.

Holy Saturday is an excellent opportunity for us to seek this new life by spending time in prayer and reading God’s word. As much as we are able, let us make this a day of seeking God in silence and waiting. Let us anticipate the gift of new life that we will receive tonight as we renew our baptismal vows and participate in the Easter liturgy.

Today is an opportunity to grow closer to Jesus and receive more of His life. Jesus has conquered sin, death, and Satan. We can experience the victory of His death and resurrection this day. We can expect tangible changes in our lives in the days and weeks ahead because we have received the power of the risen Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to share more deeply in Your life this day. Help me to overcome sin through the power of Your death and resurrection. Give me new life in the Holy Spirit! Amen. 

Jakarta, 30 March 2018 [HOLY FRIDAY] 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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THE CENTRAL POINT IN HUMAN HISTORY

THE CENTRAL POINT IN HUMAN HISTORY

(A biblical reflection on GOOD FRIDAY, 30 March 2018)

Second Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 

First Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalms: Psalm 31:2,6,12-13,15-17,25; Gospel Reading: John 18:1-19:42 

The Scripture Text

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His godly fear. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered; and being made perfect He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. (Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 RSV)

For the Christians, Good Friday will forever be the central point in human history – a day of great mourning, yet a day of great joy! Why? Because today we commemorate the greatest act of love in history: the cross of Jesus Christ! The cross represents the climax of all that Jesus said and did while He was on earth – a fountainhead of wisdom, reflection, and praise that will never run dry.

Therefore, let us take some extra time today to meditate before a crucifix. We look upon Jesus in all His lowliness – beaten, bruised, and bloodied. We see Him suffering, rejected and alone. Let us listen to His last cry from the cross: “My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?” (Matthew 27:46; see also Psalm 22:1 RSV).Let us see His love for each and every one of us, even as He hangs dying in our place: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Let us gaze upon Him who was pierced for our offences and crushed for our sins. Let us bow in reverence as we contemplate the full meaning of this holy day, when the Son of God became incredibly poor so that we could become unspeakably rich. Let us bless the One who now beckons us “to draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Good Friday is the vortex to which all of history is drawn, and out of which all of history flows, forever transformed. God’s good creation was swept into its lowest point in the death of Jesus – only to find perfect goodness waiting on the other side. God had never come closer to humanity than He did in Jesus. And, because we were so close, our rejection of Him was that much more painful. How wonderful that His hurt became the clearest illustration of His steadfast love for us!

Jesus was perfectly innocent, completely free from sin (Hebrews 4:15). Yet He bore all of our sins and injustice as He hung upon the cross. His victory reveals our destiny, which lies not in this world, but in heaven. The One who could do the most to make this world a lovely place was never given prominence in the world-system. Three days after His execution, however, He would demonstrate His victory over the effects of sin and death – and empower all believers to do the same.

There are countless examples of the permanent change wrought on Good Friday. Even the way we divide history – B.C. and A.D. – flow from the coming of our Savior! Therefore, let us take some time today to think about all the implications of Jesus’ death. Let us reflect on the fact that the eternal Son of God actually came to this earth to bring us back to Himself – and that He did it by means of the brutality of the cross.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us not reject the Lord in any manner. His love for each and every one of us is steadfast and true.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You for all that You accomplished – especially in the last day of Your life as a human being. On the cross, You felt forsaken (see Psalm 31:22 RSV), but You gathered Your last breath and committed Your spirit to the Father (see Psalm 31:5 RSV). You remained confident that Your sacrifice had infinite value for us. By Your Holy Spirit, show us more of what Your death accomplished for us. Amen.

Jakarta, 29 March 2018  

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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THE WASHING OF THE DISCIPLES’ FEET

THE WASHING OF THE DISCIPLES’ FEET

(A biblical reflection on HOLY THURSDAY [The Lord’s Supper], 29 March 2018)

 

Gospel Reading: John 13:1-15 

First Reading: Exodus 12:1-8,11-14; Psalms: Psalm 116:12-13,15-18; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 

The Scripture Text

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside His garments, and girded Himself with a towel. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who has  bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, “You are not all clean.”

When He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 13:1-15 RSV) 

The washing of the feet by Jesus has a meaning much deeper than what appears at first sight. It is a loving act of Jesus for His disciples. It is an exemplary act; we should do the same to one another. It is also a purifying act. After doing it Jesus said, “You also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).

Jesus is asking from us something more than just a service to neighbor. To wash means to purify. Washing reminds us of baptism. And baptism means entering into participation with the death and resurrection of Jesus. The significance of Baptism, like that of the Eucharist, cannot be separated from the historical act of redemption.

The washing of the feet during the Last Supper is a parable in action. The scope of the mission of Jesus is to gather a new people of God. He constitutes this people by the purification He brings. That is why Jesus said to Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me” (John 13:8).

The meaning is also clear from another fact. The people of Palestine those days habitually used sandals. Their roads were dusty and muddy. For simple hygienic reason they had the custom of washing the feet before entering the house when they came from the market or from a journey. But here Jesus washes the disciples’ feet at the strangest of times; not before entering the house, not even before starting the meal, but during the meal! So His intention was not just to wash away the dust from their feet. He was offering them the gift of purification, so that they could participate in the new life with Him. It was a washing unto salvation. Had not Jesus already said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God?” (Matthew 5:8).

Besides, not even a slave was required to wash his master’s feet. The slave had only to keep the water ready or at most pour it on the master’s feet or on the feet of the guests entering the master’s house, while they washed their own feet, But Jesus actually washes the feet of His disciples. This is obviously an act of humility, but of course much more. Jesus is doing something which only He can do. They could not purify themselves and acquire participation with Jesus. Only He could purify them and admit them.

Yet, such a marvellous gift, symbolized by the foot-washing, will have no efficacy or effect if there is no faith and love on the part of the disciples. This painful reality is personified by Judas Iscariot. He is present, he is washed, yet he is not clean! Jesus Himself indicated this by saying, “You are not all clean” (John 13:11). The purification that Jesus offers has to be understood as purification from all that is opposed to love. Anyone who is not properly disposed to this purification cannot benefit from it.

Peter does not understand the meaning of this washing. That is why he asks the Lord to wash his hands and his head also. This, of course, does not make sense, and Jesus does not oblige. A quantitative washing means nothing when what is required is a qualitative purification.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Jesus is calling  you and me this evening to become vulnerable, to let Him see our frailties and imperfections, whatever the dirt that may be in us, our need to be purified by Him and to allow Him to wash us clean so that we may enter into a deep relationship with Him. Like a patient exposing his wounds to the doctor, we need to expose our heart and mind and soul soiled with selfishness, uncharity, envy, hatred and revenge. Let us submit ourselves to the purifying action of Jesus, so that with clean hearts we can see God and participate in the heavenly inheritance of Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, how can I comprehend the vastness of Your love? Since it is beyond what I can imagine, let me rest in You as I relish the marvel of who You are. Amen.

Jakarta, 28 March 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!

HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!

(A biblical reflection on the PASSION SUNDAY [PALM SUNDAY] – 25 March 2018)

Gospel Reading for the Procession with Palms: Mark 11:1-10 [Year B] 

Alternative Gospel Reading: John 12:12-16 

The Scripture Text

And when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you ener it you will find a colt tied, on which no none has ever sat; untie it and bring it. If any one says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away, and found a colt tied at the door out in the open street; and they untied it. And those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” and they told them what Jesus had said; and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on it; and He sat upon the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:1-10 RSV)

Going to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday Jesus wanted to place His people before the final decision to accept His message. Thus for the first and only time He let Himself be celebrated as Messiah, where otherwise He always held back. But in the end, His own people rejected Him, as we see on Good Friday.

There is a serenity in the report of Mark: Jesus knows the details ahead of time and determines the events: thus He knows that the disciples entering the city will find a colt of an ass. (In the Gospel of John, Christ finds the colt only after His being welcomed by the crowd.) The owner or some bystanders try to question the doing of the apostles (this is mentioned in the Gospel of Mark, not in the Gospel of Matthew, but again in the Gospel of Luke). But they give in, when told that the master has said so. Jesus must have been well known to the owner.

That Jesus is riding on a colt as king is foretold by the prophet Zechariah (9:9) as singled out in Matthew 21:5, but not in the Gospels of Mark nor Luke.

People hail Jesus with   “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9, see Psalm 118:26 [RSV]; Matthew 21:15; 23:39). The Messiah is “He who comes.” His people acclaim with “Hosanna” (which would mean “long live the son of David!) although originally “Hosanna” meant “Lord, grant salvation!” People expect Him to restore the reign of his father David.

Some of the disciples spontaneously place their garments on the donkey. Others spread them on the roadway before Him, which again reminds us of the “WAY” along which Jesus leads His disciples. Others cut leafy branches from the fields on the Mount of Olives.

Some disciples go before Him and some follow, but without the great crowds which we find in the Gospel of Matthew. They joyfully sing “Hosanna” as a joyful cry of praise to God. They shout and sing together that Jesus is the one blessed by God who is coming to Jerusalem in His name.

He comes as a humble servant ready to give even His life, to ransom the people into the freedom of God’s kingdom. His humble entry reveals that He is the Messiah to those who have faith in God, but conceals it from those who seek a different kind of Messiah.

Short Prayer: Hosanna to the Son of David who comes to save us with selfless love. Amen.

Jakarta, 22 March 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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